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USSF Announce Open Cup Format and Schedule for 2011

2011 February 17
by Brian Quarstad

When the North American Soccer League was provisionally sanctioned to run Division-2 soccer last weekend, there were questions regarding the eligibility of the 5 U.S.-based teams and if they would be able to participate in that tournament. When U.S. Soccer held their press conference on Monday, President Sunil Gulati confirmed that those five teams would not be able to play in the 2011 edition of the 97-year-old tournament.

“It’s simply too late to incorporate them into the process in the various phases of the tournament,” said Gulati. “The timing does not work for the five U.S.-based teams to participate in this annual event. It’s impossible to put them into it. They are not going to be playing this year.”

Since that statement U.S. Soccer has taken a lot of heat from different soccer websites and podcasts. So it was no surprise that the USSF released their schedule sooner rather than later to show they had indeed been working on the schedule. The early release of the schedule lends credence to what a source had told IMS. They said the schedule was being worked on after the NASL had lost their initial provisional sanctioning status on January 20, 2011. The NASL had originally been provisionally sanctioned at the November 2010 USSF board meeting.

“I know in the past the tournament has been announced later, but it’s also been announced earlier as well,” said Neil Buethe, U.S. Soccer spokesperson. Buethe spoke to Neil Morris of the Triangle Offense Blog. “The actual format was well along, and that’s the situation why NASL was not included, because they were still up in the air and we were making the final decisions on the Open Cup.”

Morris also spoke to NASL CEO Aaron Davidson concerning the decision. Davidson said he didn’t want his statement to come off wrong but he felt his teams needs to just  “focus on our league right now.” He also explained that with most games played during weekdays and short lead times to promote the games, the US Open Cup is really not a money-making proposition for teams. “Let’s focus on NASL this year,” said Davidson.

As always Josh Hakala at The does a great job of analyzing this year’s format and schedule.

The bottom line is this year’s tournament will look like this:

MLS (8 teams – First Division): Columbus Crew, FC Dallas, Los Angeles Galaxy, New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders FC + 2 qualifying teams
USL Pro (11 teams – Third Division): Charleston Battery, Charlotte Eagles, Dayton Dutch Lions, FC New York, Harrisburg City Islanders, Los Angeles Blues, Orlando City, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Richmond Kickers, Rochester Rhinos, Wilmington Hammerheads
PDL (9 teams – Amateur): Teams to be determined
USASA (8 teams – Amateur): Two finalists from each of the four regional tournaments
NPSL (4 teams – Amateur): Teams to be determined

Please visit  The for all things U.S. Open Cup.

Click read more for the full press release from US Soccer

Amateurs to Make Up More than Half of the Tournament Field;
Eight MLS Teams to Enter Tournament on June 28 in Third Round

CHICAGO (Feb. 17, 2011) – The 98th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup will get underway on June 14 with 16 first-round games. Five rounds of play precede the Oct. 4 final that will decide the U.S. Soccer national club championship.

The more than 155 teams that entered the competition beginning in the initial stages will be narrowed to 40 teams for the tournament proper by the May 30 qualifying deadline. In 2011, 19 professional teams – including eight from Major League Soccer – and 21 amateur teams will make up the field.

The first and second rounds will be made up of exclusively lower division and amateur teams and will be played on June 14 and June 21, respectively, with eight teams advancing to play eight MLS teams on June 28 in the third round.

The quarterfinals will be played on July 12 and the semifinals will be played on Aug. 30. All 2011 U.S. Open Cup matches are scheduled to be played on Tuesdays.

The tournament has crowned a champion for 97 consecutive years beginning in 1914. Every winning team’s name is engraved on the base of the Dewar Challenge Trophy which dates to the first year of the tournament and currently resides at U.S. Soccer House in Chicago.

The two-time defending champion Seattle Sounders will enter the tournament in the third round and will be the first team since 1984 with a chance of winning three consecutive U.S. Open Cup titles. The New York Greek-Americans (1967-69) were the only other team to accomplish this feat.

Like recent editions, the U.S. Open Cup is a single-elimination tournament, with games tied after regulation extended by two 15-minute overtime halves. If a winner is not determined in overtime, advancement will be determined by kicks from the penalty spot.

The 2011 champion will earn a $100,000 cash prize, while the runner-up will collect $50,000. The top Division III and Amateur Division clubs will each receive a $10,000 prize. No Division II teams will participate in the 2011 U.S. Open Cup as the North American Soccer League did not obtain provisional sanctioning in time to be included.

2011 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Schedule
May 30: Qualifying Deadline
June 14: First Round (32 teams from USL PRO and Amateur Division)
June 21: Second Round (First round winners)
June 28: Third Round (Second round winners paired against eight MLS teams)
July 12: Quarterfinals
Aug. 30: Semifinals
Oct. 4: Final

Participating Teams

Major League Soccer (Division I – 8 teams): Six automatic qualifiers based on the 2010 regular season standings and two qualifiers from a play-in competition that features 10 teams.
Automatic Qualifiers (6 berths): Columbus Crew, FC Dallas, Los Angeles Galaxy, New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders
Play-in Qualifiers (2 berths): Chicago Fire, Chivas USA, Colorado Rapids, D.C. United, Houston Dynamo, New England Revolution, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, San Jose Earthquakes, Sporting Kansas City

United Soccer Leagues PRO (Division III – 11 teams): All U.S.-based clubs automatically qualify.
Automatic Qualifiers (11 berths): Charleston Battery, Charlotte Eagles, Dayton Dutch Lions, Harrisburg City Islanders, Los Angeles Blues, FC New York, Orlando City, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Richmond Kickers, Rochester Rhinos, Wilmington Hammerheads

United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (Amateur – 9 teams): The top U.S.-based club from each of nine PDL divisions will qualify based on the results of four pre-selected 2011 regular season games. Each of the 54 teams eligible will play two home and two away matches that will serve as qualifiers.

U.S. Adult Soccer Association (Amateur – 8 teams): The first and second place teams from each of the four U.S. Soccer regions will advance to the tournament. Approximately 50 teams entered qualifying at the local or state level.

National Premier Soccer League (Amateur – 4 teams): The process for determining NPSL qualifying teams will be announced in the coming weeks. The 36-team national amateur league is affiliated with the USASA. In previous years its teams participated via USASA regional qualifying.

22 Responses
  1. Soccer Boy permalink
    February 17, 2011

    I think this tourney should be re-named the “Sunil K. Gulati 1st annual US Closed Cup.”

  2. smatthew permalink
    February 17, 2011

    As someone who didn’t believe USSF was already working on the Cup I gladly admit I am wrong and happy to see they were working on the tourney earlier than what they had been in previous years.

  3. Taylor permalink
    February 17, 2011

    I wonder why there can’t be 2 plans: one with NASL clubs and one without them ? There should always a “Plan B” in everything a good organization does.

  4. Neal permalink
    February 17, 2011


    One of the best experiences as a fan was the 2005 USOC run by my Minnesota Thunder, who made it to the Semi-Final.

    Agreed: always have a Plan-B, maybe the fax machine at Soccer House was out of paper.

  5. meh permalink
    February 17, 2011

    Brian, I believe you (or someone) has a slight factual mix up here:

    “They said the schedule was being worked on after the NASL had lost their initial provisional sanctioning status in November of 2010. The reversal of that sanctioning came on January 20, 2011.”

    NASL lost their initial sanctioning January 21. They got it back Feb. 13. IIRC.

    So the period of non-sanctioning was barely two weeks long.

    I’m sorry, but the claim that USSF was unable to adjust the USOC format in time to include NASL teams simply does not pass the laugh test.

    TWO WEEKS! They couldn’t wait two weeks?

    They weren’t working on a USOC format prior to January 21 that included NASL teams? Those plans don’t still exist on paper or computer spreadsheet somewhere? Really? USSF could only draw up the USOC format during those convenient two weeks when NASL was temporarity unsanctioned? USOC planners were totally unaware that the un-sanctioning of NASL might be reversed, and could not make contingency plans?

    Really? USSF offers up this pile of horse manure as an excuse, and expects us to take them at their word? It is laughable.

    Whatever. Time to move on. NASL needs to focus on having a successful 2011 season, marketing and promoting its teams properly, and setting up a proper league front office and start working on TV deals, commercial sponsorships, league-wide promotion and marketing, and all those things that TOA/NASL said that USL wasn’t doing properly. This is the time to step it up, NASL. The sanctioning process has been a huge extra headache and the USOC thing is just another annoyance; now finally NASL needs focus on the actual NASL product. Good luck.

  6. tomASS permalink
    February 17, 2011

    Yeah where are the NASL teams???



  7. Greg permalink
    February 17, 2011

    How exactly does not having teams in the Cup allow Aaron to “focus on the league’? This entire thing is moronic. Senile Gulati has lost any respect I might have had for him.

  8. Brendan permalink
    February 17, 2011

    I think y’all are blowing this out of proportion.

  9. jw7 permalink
    February 17, 2011

    The view down in Tampa FL is that Aaron’s statement maybe hinted at the fact that NASL was not all that excited to host midweek games against lower level teams that don’t draw well.

    “The U.S. Open Cup games still cost you money, it’s hard to draw serious gates there because you don’t have a lot of lead time to promote them, they’re on weekdays, [and] they’re usually Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Obviously, if you get to the later rounds there are chances at really top matches (for one or two teams only). But, we look forward to coming back to the U.S. Open Cup in 2012. Let’s focus on NASL this year.”

    And in reality it maybe a smart thing for this first season to control cost a little more closely.

  10. jw7 permalink
    February 17, 2011

    As I said before we have no real idea who wanted to play in the US Open Cup, and who didn’t. Stop blaming the USSF leadership unless you have solid info they are the ones that killed it.

  11. jw7 permalink
    February 17, 2011

    I’ll be routing for the USL Pro teams (except Rochester, Charleston, and Austin/Orlando) this year because after all it the tournament where we all want to see David take down Goliath.

    Go USL Pro teams show those MLS guys that in America all the leagues are good quality.

    I love the US Open Cup!
    Good stuff!

  12. February 17, 2011


    Apologies. I was in a hurry when I wrote that and did a horrible job. I have rewritten it now to be more clear. However, that board meeting was actually on the 20th. I reported it on the morning of the 21st.
    Mr. Nit Picky.

  13. February 17, 2011

    Sorry, to me the Open Cup schedule looks like the USSF supported USL’s “kill D2 and raise D3 to D2” plan all along.

    I realize it’s much more nuanced, but to an ignorant observer like me, that’s what it looks like. They denied the provisional sanctioning and all of a sudden remembered it was time to work on that Open Cup schedule?

    If I were in Aaron Davidson’s position I’d do the same thing and nod and say “we like the plan”. After all, it’s still provisional (read: “we can take it away anytime we want”) sanctioning. It is in NASL’s best interest to support this plan, no matter how they feel.

    However, as D2 fans who watched last year’s debacle unfold, it is in our best interest to speak our minds, no?

    This stinks.

  14. RedCard permalink
    February 17, 2011

    @jw7 a little r gun ho don’t you think but ok.

    Sounder three-peat baby. A Sounder till I die.

  15. El Padre permalink
    February 17, 2011

    I like when jw7 called it the “US CLOSED Cup” the other day (a sentiment echoed by Soccer Boy today). I think meh & the good Deacon have it right. Besides, Aaron Davidson and other NASL officials read the blogs and know the chatter. If they themselves were the reason why the NASL is not in this year’s USOC, all they’d have to say is that they chose to focus on the league and not play in the USOC. They could cite historical precedent (even just as a tongue-in-cheek gesture) to the original NASL’s choice not to participate in the tournament for the entire time of the league’s existence.
    That would stop the conspiracy theories and trashing of the USSF that is taking place. However, I don’t think such a statement is in the works because I think that the NASL isn’t happy with this situation. Today posted a blog speaking about how much the USOC means to the Seattle Sounders and how much the CONCACAF Champions League means to Real Salt Lake ( The USOC is the only way that NASL US based teams have access to CONCACAF.
    This is more than simple scheduling issues & it is petty on the part of the USSF.

  16. smatthew permalink
    February 17, 2011

    El Padre reminded me of another great thing USSF did regarding the Open Cup, they didn’t wait a day before the final to decde if the winner gets a spot in the CCL. I really do hope this isn’t just a one time deal but a sign that yup the USSF is treating the Cup with more importance.

  17. El Padre permalink
    February 17, 2011

    Hopefully the US Open Cup team and three MLS teams in the tournament have success in CONCACAF so that we keep the 4 spots. There is a lot of grumbling in Costa Rica and Honduras that we get as many spots as Mexico while not having nearly the same history of success.

  18. Jane permalink
    February 18, 2011

    How does announcing the teams to play in the Open Cup count as the complete process and thus it was to late to include the 5 NASL teams? This could have been done in 5 minutes which is exactly what they did to be able to have an excuse. What a complete joke. It also shows how little respect Sunil and his gang have for fans by expecting us to believe such a lame excuse.

  19. jw7 permalink
    February 18, 2011

    @ Jane, “This could have been done in 5 minutes ”
    You’re right. All NASL had to do was say- we want to be included in losing even more money this first year, please let us lose more money, please.

    But they (the NASL) didn’t because their learning and getting smarter about how to stay in business, concentrate on things that have worked in the past and don’t get all emotional about delaying things that don’t make money the first year.

    How many US Open Cup games did you attend last year, all of them your team played in, everyone that they spent money hosting for your viewing enjoyment? If you did than you are one of the few that did.
    We had so few people in MN show up to one game a bunch of us walked down on the field and sat right on the sideline in the VIP chairs and no one even asked why we thought we could do that. There were less than 500 people at the MN’s game.

    Prove the USSF Killed it, or STFU!
    There is no evidence to support all this whining about the USSF leadership.

  20. Bart permalink
    February 18, 2011

    For NASL to get up and running, I agree with Davidson, he and his fellow team owners need to focus on the league’s season, and not any ancillary games that will cause them to lose more money.

    Smart comments on his part.

  21. yankiboy permalink
    February 18, 2011

    One of the rare times that I am speechless.
    “Not enough time…”
    Not sure if the correct response is to laugh or cry…

  22. silly permalink
    February 18, 2011

    So no open cup. At least there is a league. Just think about the other direction that meeting could have gone. “we have decided that the NASL has not shown significant financial strength so we are going to deny their application for Division 2 soccer league for 2011.”

Comments are closed.